Spotlight on Canadian Rôle in Relocations in Tarkwa, Ghana

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

A submission by Entraide Missionaire, a Montréal-based human rights group, to the annual Foreign Affairs human rights consultation, got a lot more attention than such presentations usually receive when it was written up in the Globe and Mail. The report documents the way that the privatisation of mining assets in Africa has led to increased involvement of private security companies and mercenaries. It also mentions forced relocation of people who happen to live where the mining companies want to prospect or develop mines. MiningWatch and Development & Peace also endorsed the report. (You can download "Spiral of Violence" here.)

The key, apparently, was that the report mentioned a Toronto urban planning company called Planning Alliance (formerly John Van Nostrand Associates) who had engineered one such relocation on behalf of Goldfields Ghana Ltd. in Tarkwa, Ghana. (Goldfields Ghana is operated by Goldfields of South Africa, but 18.9% owned by Repadre Capital of Toronto.) Van Nostrand himself was making a presentation at the Prospectors and Developers' Association of Canada's "Mining Millenium 2000" conference the day the article came out, and was incensed to be mentioned in the same breath as mercenaries.

Yet the facts of the matter have been documented and reconfirmed by Third World Network-Africa Secretariat and the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM): that Planning Alliance cynically "negotiated" with residents who had no legal advice or power in the situation, with local security agents present, in a context of repression and police action; and that the several hundred people in the village of Atuabo who have resisted relocation have had to deal with the destruction of their community by Goldfields' bulldozers (this according to Planning Alliance's own Janet Fishlock) — as well as the violation of their basic rights to education, clean water, and access to their fields and crops.

It seems that Planning Alliance is moving away from their established area of work — they have a solid reputation internationally for their work on affordable housing — and into the more lucrative area of assisting mining companies to engineer the removal of entire villages. How the residents' rights are to be protected in these circumstances is unclear.

Meanwhile, Planning Alliance is expanding operations, most recently in Tambo Grande, Perú, where Manhattan Minerals of Vancouver has been trying to explore for gold within the town itself. They are also planning to publish a report which will document how the Tarkwa experience is in fact a model relocation.

According to Planning Alliance's latest communication with MiningWatch, although we may differ in our interpretation of events, we share a common concern for the people. We would like to take advantage of this concern to open communications with Goldfields itself, and perhaps remove some of the pressure that the people of Atuabo are facing.